The University of South Africa (Unisa) has released an official announcement around how it is handling the coronavirus (COID-19) situation in the country. While Unisa is primarily a distance learning institution, the effects of this pandemic affect even it, especially around graduation ceremonies and the upcoming first semester examinations.

Until further notice, all Unisa graduations have been suspended. One of these ceremonies was planned to take place just yesterday, 16th March, but had to be cancelled in the name of public safety and to comply with the conditions of the current national state of disaster, which prohibits gatherings of more than 100 people.

The first semester of 2020 is currently heading towards its exam season which is due to kick off in the May / June period. Most of Unisa’s exams need to be written in person by students in large exam halls, which presents another problem, especially if the state of disaster is still in effect when these papers need to be written.

“The university is urgently looking at solutions in relation to heath and safety measures at examination venues. These will be communicated once the logistics have been concluded,” Writes Unisa professor Mandla S Makhanya, principal and vice-chancellor at the institution.

At this point it should be noted that Unisa has had a tumultuous first semester outside of the impact of COVID-19. Due to the late release of second semester 2019 exam results, the university was forced to delay registrations three times, followed by extensions being granted for assignments and exams.

It’s unclear at this time if the assignments and exams will similarly be pushed back once again, but that does seem like a likely outcome given the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic. Again, while Unisa is unique in the fact that it already hosts much of its curriculum online, the pandemic affects everyone regardless. Students studying from home are still having their lives disrupted, and the educators who work at the physical Unisa campuses

Those campuses are taking their own precautions too. Staff at these facilities have been instructed to wear gloves and masks, and special provisions are being made for those who have had contact with infected individuals, as well as those who have travelled overseas.

Outside of what has mentioned above we recommend students and other interested parties read Unisa’s official short term statement on the pandemic and its current measures. This can be found on the school’s website or in this PDF.